ACT Leader of the Opposition Elizabeth Lee was nominated for the 2020 McKinnon Emerging Political Leader of the Year yesterday, 16 February, for speaking out against sexual harassment and racism.
The award recognises an outstanding Australian politician with fewer than five years in office.
Ms Lee is one of five shortlisted nominees; the others are Glen Innes mayor Carol Sparks, Brisbane councillor Fiona Cunningham, Victorian MP Dr Helen Haines, NSW MP Zali Steggall OAM, and Western Australian MP Dr Anne Aly.
Although this year’s nominees are all women, the prize is not female-only. The main prize, the McKinnon Prize in Political Leadership, honours politicians who have served more than five years in office; the short list includes Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, NSW Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean, and Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt.
The winners of both prizes will be announced in March.
As the first East Asian leader of a major political party in Australia, Elizabeth Lee has become a role-model for Asian-Australians seeking political office.
She has spoken out strongly against racism MPs face on the campaign trail, and about the sexual harassment and racism she experienced while she was growing up, and during her time in politics.
She was one of 10 women last year to accuse former judge Dyson Heydon of alleged sexual harassment, and she has also spoken publicly about her miscarriage before giving birth to her daughter, Mia, last year.
Ms Lee migrated to Australia from South Korea at the age of seven. She grew up in Sydney, and studied Law and Asian Studies at the Australian National University (ANU).
Before lecturing in law at the ANU and the University of Canberra, she practiced law in government and in private practice.
Ms Lee was elected to the Legislative Assembly in 2016 representing the new seat of Kurrajong, and served as Shadow Minister for the Environment and for Disability before she was elected leader of the Opposition last year.
Deputy Opposition Leader Giulia Jones said it came as no surprise that a leader of Ms Lee’s calibre had been recognised among five other impressive candidates.
“As the first female leader of the Canberra Liberals in 20 years, Elizabeth is a passionate advocate for all people in the ACT, particularly vulnerable Canberrans,” Mrs Jones said.
“Elizabeth is an outstanding leader who is highly engaged with her constituents and devoted to achieving positive outcomes for the entire community.”
The winners of the McKinnon prize will be chosen by a selection panel including former Prime Minister Julia Gillard and former NSW premier and Liberal leader Mike Baird.
McKinnon Prize Ambassador Amanda Vanstone said this recognition makes it easier for young people and aspiring leaders to see themselves as future leaders, by showing them the path forward for politicians who lead in a way that is authentic to their values.
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